Hungarian activists groups demand implementation of law to ensure affordable housing

The Viktor Orban government recently passed a law that gives municipalities the power to regulate online renting of homes. Activists say that this law can be used to place restrictions which will bring down housing cost

August 21, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Protests in Budapest demanding affordable housing for all. File Photo

Hungarian housing rights groups are demanding that a new law passed by the government be used to ensure affordable housing for all. The law, called the Airbnb Act, was approved by the Viktor Orban government to support the hotel industry by regulating the booming business of the online vacation rental marketplaces. However, activist groups say that it can be effectively used by municipalities to ensure that restrictions are placed on commercial use of residential property, thereby ensuring better access to housing.

The housing rights group, A Város Mindenkié (City is For Everyone), demanded that municipalities regulate the commercial use of rental apartments. As per the law, municipalities can limit the maximum number of nights an apartment can be rented out for tourism purposes. The mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, has also said that this is an opportunity that can benefit the residents of Budapest, who have “inherited a severe housing crisis.”

In their appeal to the local authorities, A Varos Mindenkie, said that “on  August 1, the law empowering the local government of Budapest to determine the time limit of short-term rent of apartments was introduced…We urge the local governments to regulate the utilization of apartments for tourist purposes to a maximum of 30 days per year. This restriction would still allow homeowners to rent their apartments during a possible longer trip, during the summer or when students travel home during vacations. However, it will also helps ensure the growth of the market for long-term apartments and decrease rent prices, so those who don’t have their own flat can get affordable housing.”

Táncsics – Radical Left Party in Hungary also demanded the regulation of the use of private flats and apartments in Budapest for tourism purposes. “The housing crisis that has been going on for decades is aggravated by the fact that owners rather use their properties as hotels. This practice radically reduces the number of residences that can be rented, which are extremely important for those who want to work or study in Budapest,” said the party.

Groups, including Future Association, Spark Movement (Free Budapest Forum), Street to Apartment Association and Green Front Youth Movement, are also part of the movement demanding affordable housing in Budapest. A Varos Mindenkie has cited a recent survey which saod that there may be up to 15,000 homeless people in Hungary.